By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
August 22, 2016
- Memory loss isn’t always the first sign of dementia
- Changes in behavior may predict mental decline
- Proposed checklist may offer earlier detection of Alzheimer’s
If you tend to experience “senior moments” every now and then, you may be worried that it’s a sign of impending dementia or Alzheimer’s. But a brief memory lapse, like wondering where you put down your keys or forgetting an appointment, is a far cry from dementia.
In reality, the first sign of problems to come might not show up as memory problems at all. Instead, they could rear their ugly head in the way of behavioral changes.
This was a big topic at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto. And it may give doctors like me – along with family members – a better way to detect dementia risk earlier than otherwise.
You see, at this point in time dementia isn’t usually diagnosed until it’s causing serious problems. And the test itself is relatively simple. It just asks about 11 questions to assess memory and thinking skills.
Now, I’m not saying the test we already use isn’t useful. But the answers are pretty easy. Thinking skills have to be greatly diminished to get them wrong.
As a result, the current testing can’t be used as a predictive tool. It can only be used to confirm what we’ve already guessed.
For this reason, I like the idea of the new type of testing that was proposed this year’s conference.
New Checklist Roots Out Behavioral Problems that Predict Risk of Dementia
A group of experts created something they’re calling a “Mild Behavioral Impairment (MBI) Checklist”.
Unlike current tests, it doesn’t zero in on memory, recall or thinking skills. Instead, it examines changes in behavior. And it may provide a way for us to get a much earlier assessment of future cognitive problems.
The proposed checklist stems from the results of a study which shows that more than 80% of pre-dementia patients experience behavioral changes.
By far, the vast majority of these individuals have mood changes and problems with impulse control before memory problems occur. A lack of interest or emotion, inappropriate behavior and psychoses can also occur prior to the onset of dementia.
With this in mind, the MBI Checklist is designed to root out these behavioral problems. When they’re present for six months or longer, it could mean memory problems down the road.
It contains 32 questions such as…
- Has the person lost interest in friends, family, or home activities?
- Is there a change in eating behaviors (e.g., overeating, cramming the mouth, insistent on eating only specific foods, or eating the food in exactly the same order)?
- Does the person hoard objects when she/he did not do so before?
- Has the person developed beliefs that they are in danger, or that others are planning to harm them or steal their belongings?
Now, I have patients who tell me they wish they would have known about these behavioral issues sooner. Some watched their parents go through similar changes with no idea what was in store. They just thought their mom or dad was being “stubborn” or “feeling ornery”.
And while the proposed checklist isn’t final yet, I think it’s a pretty good starting point. As it stands, it can give a general idea of behavioral changes that could mean you, your spouse or a parent might be facing diminished capacity in the near future.
Want to Take the Test?
I was lucky enough to get hold of a draft copy of proposed checklist. It doesn’t include how to score the results, but one thing is clear: The higher the score, the higher the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Print out a few copies. Rank your significant other or a parent. Have someone rank you. (Don’t try to score your own self. If you’re exhibiting strange behavior you probably don’t know it.)
Logically, if there are more “yes” answers than “no” answers, problems may be lurking. And if more than a few answers rank “2” or “3” on the severity scale, it might be time to make some lifestyle changes.
Medicine can’t cure Alzheimer’s or dementia. But lifestyle can. In fact, I recently sent out two back-to-back issues that show you a proven method of shutting down – and even reversing – cognitive decline.
Even if you score relatively well, I suggest taking some of the recommendations in these issues to heart. It could make the difference between living a sharp-witted and active life in your later years or ending up in a nursing home.
New Concept – Mild Behavioral Impairment (MBI) – And Checklist of Symptoms Could Support Earlier Alzheimer’s/Dementia Diagnosis. Press Release.
Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. Jul 2016.